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Applying for a Mortgage: How Much Can You Afford?

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Whether you’re applying for a mortgage for the first time or are looking at purchasing a new home and will be increasing your mortgage amount, it’s essential to understand how much you can afford. You may think that any number that fits within your monthly budget is comfortable and sustainable, but your mortgage lender may say otherwise. In order to determine what you can truly afford, there are some guidelines that mortgage lenders insist you abide by and they can ensure that you don’t get in over your head with your home purchase.

How Mortgage Debt Ratios Determine Affordability

You might think that if you make $4,000 per month that $2,000 per month to carry your mortgage is quite affordable but it’s not quite as simple as that to a mortgage lender. What they look at is a few essential debt ratios that ensure you’re taking on a mortgage well within your means with consideration to your other debts and expenses.

Gross Debt Service Ratio (GDS)

The gross debt service ratio looks specifically at the affordability of your housing costs, and it requires that they are not higher than a fixed percentage of your household income, which can vary by program and lender.

The way the GDS is determined is by calculating the monthly mortgage amount + property taxes + condo fees, and then that sum is divided by monthly income. In the case of the $4,000 income and the $2,000 mortgage payment, with this equation, that is not an amount that a mortgage lender would provide a borrower as the ratio is far too high without even considering the other housing costs.

Total Debt Service Ratio (TDS)

Your total debt service ratio is also considered to ensure that you get a mortgage amount that is easily affordable. The same calculation for the TDS applies, but with this debt ratio, all debt obligations are considered whether it’s a car loan, student loan or minimum credit card payments for outstanding balances as well as your housing expenses. This debt ratio can be no higher than 40%-42% on some programs, but this number can vary by program and lender.

Ensuring Your Mortgage is Always Affordable

While it may seem as though the mortgage amount that you’re approved for based on the debt ratios is much lower than what you believe fits into your budget, this is a realistic amount for a number of reasons:

  • As a general rule, having your total debt expenses total no more than 40% ensures you have enough cashflow for savings, investments, household repairs, day-to-day living expenses and more.
  • When you take on a fixed rate mortgage for 2 or more years, there’s potential that in that time period your situation or income could change. With a GDS of 32% or under, it’s more realistic to expect that if that happens, it’s more likely you’ll be able to continue to pay your bills.
  • You never want to become house poor or you’ll begin to resent your investment. When you don’t over-spend on your home, you’ll still have opportunity to live your life.
  • When you first buy your home, you may have fewer expenses than you would if your life changes. For example, when you make your purchase you may only be a couple and if later you have children, your variable expenses may change greatly.

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Mortgage Rate Outlook for Week of July 18, 2011

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Mortgage rates continued lower last week fueled by concerns regarding employment and statements made in the June Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes regarding market weakness. The consensus among the majority of the recently released market data and the FOMC minutes is that the overall recovery is still a work in progress and the levels of GDP growth needed to fuel a healthy economy are still a ways off. This is good news for mortgage bad news for the economy as a whole.

Economic Calendar for Week of July 18, 2011

  • Monday – NAHB Housing Market Index
  • Tuesday – Housing Starts
  • Wednesday – Existing Home Sales
  • Thursday – Initial Claims, Philadelphia Fed, Leading Indicators

Mortgage rates have been been held down for weeks as bad economic data has driven bond prices up creating a unique and very likely last chance for home owners and buyers to take advantage of extremely low rates. The concern is that once this window closes and rates begin their inevitable move up, there will be no going back, which means that once the opportunity is gone, it’s gone for good. We can help you understand if you are in or getting into the best mortgage for your needs, please contact us for a free consultation.

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Economic Worries Translate Into Low Consumer Confidence and Low Mortgage Rates

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The University of Michigan’s / Thomson Reuters widely-watched consumer confidence index shows consumer confidence moving lower driven by lack of confidence in government economic policies and increasing pessimism over unemployment, home prices and falling income. The index fell  7.7 points to 63.8, its biggest decline since March with the index falling to 76.3 from 82.0, the lowest reading since November of 2009.

One issue at the forefront of eroding consumer confidence is the impending budget deal debacle which will decide the fate of whether or not the US debt ceiling can be increased, allowing the United States to continue funding its monthly obligations.

Adding to consumer anxiety is credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s statements this week that there is a 50 per cent chance it will downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating within three months because of the congressional infighting over approving an increase in the debt ceiling. The rating agency has placed the United States on a credit watch, not good news for the economy or consumers.

FED Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress:

Much of the slowdown in aggregate demand this year has been centered in the household sector, and the ability and willingness of consumers to spend will be an important determinant of the pace of the recovery in coming quarters. Real disposable personal income over the first five months of 2011 was boosted by the reduction in payroll taxes, but those gains were largely offset by higher prices for gasoline and other commodities. Households report that they have little confidence in the durability of the recovery and about their own income prospects. Moreover, the ongoing weakness in home values is holding down household wealth and weighing on consumer sentiment. On the positive side, household debt burdens are declining, delinquency rates on credit card and auto loans are down significantly, and the number of homeowners missing a mortgage payment for the first time is decreasing. The anticipated pickups in economic activity and job creation, together with the expected easing of price pressures, should bolster real household income, confidence, and spending in the medium run.

The silver lining for mortgage rates is that bad economic news results in lower or depressed mortgage rates. We can help you decide if you in the best mortgage for your needs or if a lower rate is available. Please contact us today for your free existing or future mortgage consultation.

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Federal Reserve Minutes Indicate Higher Mortgage Rates Coming

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The Federal Reserve released notes from the June 21-22 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on Tuesday, shedding light on the FOMC’s current observations of the market and how it will be adjusting its activities moving forward. This release of minutes is one of eight releases the Fed meets, following each of the eight Fed meetings that take place each year.

The minutes didn’t drop any bombshells that have had any significant immediate impact on mortgage rates, but did provide useful insight on how the Fed will be adjusting its activities, which will affect how mortgage rates move in the future. The market and mortgage rates as a whole were largely unmoved release of the minutes.

The Fed overview on the current state of the market shows that recovery has been slower than expected and that housing prices remain depressed, both factors holding back the overall recovery of the economy.

From the June 2011 FOMC Minutes:

Activity in the housing market remained depressed, as both weak demand and the sizable inventory of foreclosed or distressed properties continued to hold back new construction. Starts and permits of new single-family homes were essentially unchanged in April and May, and they stayed near the very low levels seen since the middle of last year. Sales of new and existing homes remained at subdued levels in recent months, while measures of home prices fell further.

Since the Fed sets monetary policy and participates in other activities such as buying Treasury debt, their activities can significantly impact the mortgage rates and the economy as a whole. As the Fed has implemented various policies to help push the economy out of recession, maintaining these policies for an extended period of time can do more damage than good. The June minutes provided some insight into how the Fed will unwind or exit some of these policies moving forward.

Fed Exit Strategy Principles

  1. The Fed will raise the Fed Funds Rate (the rate at which banks lend each other money overnight)
  2. The Fed will stop buying Treasury Debt (they are currently reinvesting the proceeds on existing obligations)
  3. The Fed will sell its holdings in mortgage-backed securities

Since rates are currently at very low levels, there is a lot more room for rates to go up then go down. That means that now is a great time to inquire about whether your existing mortgage is the best fit for you or to learn about your options if you are considering purchasing a home.

 

 

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Recurring Closing Costs: Costs of Buying and Maintaining Your Home

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When you purchase a home for the first time, there are some expenses to keep in mind that you may not be aware of that you are responsible for when you close on your home.  Closing costs typically total 3% to 6% of the purchase price of a home. The recurring closing costs outlined below are not only applicable when you close but have to be paid on an ongoing basis after you take possession of your new home.

Recurring Closing Costs

These are the costs that you may have to pay out at closing, but that you’ll also be responsible for on an ongoing basis as a home owner.

  • Property Tax – This will be paid at closing if the seller has pre-paid any of the property taxes for the period after you take possession of the home. If your mortgage lender requires that you put your property taxes in escrow, one or two month’s payments may also be required at closing.
  • Mortgage Insurance – If you’ve taken out a high ratio mortgage (with less than 20% down) you may be required to have it insured. You may need to pay the full premium upfront or just the taxes. The same applies if you choose to take creditor protection to help you with your mortgage in case of illness or death.
  • Home Owner’s Insurance – To protect you against fire or flood, at the time of closing you will be required to prove that you have insurance in place. Some lenders will require that you pre-pay premiums for the whole year.

If you have any questions about recurring closing costs or any other mortgage related questions, we can help! Please contact us for a free mortgage consultation.

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Mortgage Rates Move Lower on Weak Jobs Data

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released unexptected  employment data this morning in the form of the “Jobs Report” resulting in a decrease in mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are senstiive to the jobs report because jobs are what provide the income that is spent to power the economy.

The data released showed that Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in June (increase of 18,000 jobs, lower than expected), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.2 percent. Since the market was expecting higher job growth, the data was disappointing, which is good for mortgage rates.


From the Bureau of Labor Statistics Report:

The number of unemployed persons (14.1 million) and the unemployment rate (9.2
percent) were essentially unchanged over the month. Since March, the number of
unemployed persons has increased by 545,000, and the unemployment rate has
risen by 0.4 percentage point. The labor force, at 153.4 million, changed
little over the month.

Mortgage rates are once again at extremely low levels due to weaker than expected economic data. This means that although rates were expected to have moved higher by now, we have a little bit more time to lock in low rates at their current levels. If you need help determining if you can benefit from the low rates available today, we can help!

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What to Expect When You Apply for a Mortgage

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You’re ready to make that big step into home ownership, which can be exciting, but if you’ve never gone through the process? It’s easy to get overwhelmed but when you have a better understanding of what to expect from the process of obtaining a mortgage, you will feel much more confident about every decision you make no matter what comes your way. While we can’t cover everything that you may experience when you apply for a mortgage, here are a few things you can surely expect!

The Mortgage Application Process

1. Discuss your needs and your finances with your mortgage professional – While this is not a step that you are required to take, even before you begin shopping for a house or a mortgage, it’s a good idea to go over your finances with a mortgage representative that can provide further advice on saving for your down payment or which debts you may want to pay off in order to qualify for the mortgage amount you’re hoping for.

2. Get Pre-Approved – Before you begin shopping for a house, you want to get pre-approved so you know what your lender will allow you to spend. In order to do this, you will need to need to complete a basic mortgage application and provide information about your income, debts and expenses.  Your mortgage professional will look at all of this information and will advise you on the best mortgages for your needs, and provide a guideline as to how much you can spend on your home.

3. Commit To a Mortgage – The specific process depends upon your lender, but typically once you’ve made an offer on your home, you will have to provide a few further details about you that way your mortgage application can be formally processed. You will receive a mortgage commitment, but there may be some conditions attached.

4. Fulfilling Your Mortgage Conditions – It depends upon your state and lender, but often you will be asked to prove that you have your down payment and even some of your closing costs in place 30 days before you’re set to close on your  home.  If some of your down payment will be coming from a family member as a gift, you may also be asked to provide a gift letter. Your lender wants to ensure that you aren’t borrowing your cash assets that you’re using for your home purchase.

5. Sign Your Closing Papers – This may happen before your closing date or on your closing date depending upon your lender and where you live.  You will then confirm the frequency of your mortgage payments and arrange a payment method for your mortgage premiums.

The above outlines some of the main components of the mortgage application process, though some of the finer details will depend upon your lender and the state you live in!

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Home Values Show Increase, Signs of Recovery?

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This week was marked by several indexes showing similar gains in housing prices, a change that every home owner has been waiting for and a sign that the summer housing market is moving in a positive direction.

The Case-Schiller index, which is a measure of of home-value is calculated from repeat sales of single-family homes (as opposed to relying on median home prices) showed that home values rose 0.8 percent for the 10-city index and 0.7 percent for the 20-city measure when compared with March.

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Similarly, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s monthly House Price Index (FHFA Index) shows U.S. home prices rose 0.8 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis from March to April. The FHFA monthly index is calculated using purchase prices of houses backing mortgages that have been sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Finally, the National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) showed growth of 8.2% month over month, which is 13.4% higher than May 2010. It is also worth noting that this is the single largest gain since November 2010.

About the NAR Pending Home Sales Index:

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) is released during the first week of each month. It is designed to be a leading indicator of housing activity.

The index measures housing contract activity. It is based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos and co-ops. A signed contract is not counted as a sale until the transaction closes. Modeling for the PHSI looks at the monthly relationship between existing-home sale contracts and transaction closings over the last four years.

If you are considering purchasing a new home but aren’t sure how much you qualify for, we can help. Now is a great time to take advantage of historically low rates, waiting may result in having to pay more for a higher rate, so don’t hesitate with any questions you might have. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

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BuildFax? What is it and Why is it Free Until July 31st?

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You’ve probably heard of CarFax, a service that enables you to get vehicle history reports before you purchase a car to make sure that you aren’t buying a car with otherwise undetectable problems or history that may cost you money in the future. Now BuildFax, based in Austin, Texas is offering a similar service for prospective home buyers that want to do further due diligence prior to purchasing a home.

BuildFax bills itself as a “a one-stop shop for building, remodel, and repair information for over 70 million U.S. properties”.

From the BuildFax Website:

BuildFax collects and organizes construction records on millions of properties from cities and counties across the United States. Once in our system, we analyze, mine and compare the data so that it becomes like a “background check” on a property. We have data on new construction, major systems repair, additions, renovations, roofs, pools, demolitions, contractors and more.”

BuildFax’s database of permit information from building departments covers in excess of 4,000 cities and counties. BuildFax provides summary reports showing major renovations or repairs done on properties including additions, plumbing, air conditioning, roof replacements, etc. BuildFax reports also including contractor and dates of work completed.

BuildFax reports are usually $39.99 per report, but you can sign up for a FREE REPORT until July 31, 2011.

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Mortgage Outlook for the Week of June 27, 2011

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We start the week off in a positive direction for mortgage rates stemming from multiple positive economic events last week. The first event was good news regarding Greece’s debt issues as the country looks to pass an act that will lay out a plan for remaining solvent and keep other European nations and the IMF happy.

The second positive event was that the Federal Open Market Committee left the Fed Funds Rate (interest rate at which depository institutions lend balances at the Federal Reserve to other depository institutions) unchanged at .000% – .250% while lowering it expectations of growth in the future for the US economy. While the expectations growth outlook was not positive news for the economy as a whole, it is good for mortgage rates, which move lower in times of economic uncertainty or turmoil.

Economic Calendar for Week of June 27, 2011

  • Monday – Personal Income & Outlays Report for May, Kocherlakota and Koenig from the Fed speak, 2 Year Treasure Note Auction
  • Tuesday – Case-Shiller 20-city Index, 5 Year Treasure Note Auction
  • Wednesday – Consumer Confidence, Pending Home Sales, 7 Year Treasure Note Auction
  • Thursday – Initial Jobless Claims
  • Friday – Construction Spending

Not sure if you are in the best mortgage for your needs? We can give you the information you need to decide which options make the most sense for your current or future mortgage. Mortgage rates have continued to maintained low levels for months, creating a great opportunity to lock in a low rate on new home purchases or refinances, now is a great time to take advantage of low rates before they inevitably begin to move higher.

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